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Preview of 2015 legislative session

By State Sen. Scott Newman
Happy New Year!
This week marks the beginning of the 2015 legislative session. A primary objective for this session is to pass a balanced state budget that will help Minnesotans thrive. I am looking forward to a productive session and working with my Senate colleagues in an effort to control the ever-increasing size and cost of state government.
We are going into session with a billion dollar surplus and a key issue will be how that money is going to be allocated.
It is also important to consider whether Gov. Dayton intends to increase the budget. In 2004, the state budget was $26 billion and now it is just under $40 billion, while during the same time period our population remained relatively stable. I am concerned that we cannot afford to continue to finance budget increases at the rate of over a billion dollars a year. Consequently, I will work towards passing a balanced budget that is beneficial for all Minnesotans.
For the upcoming legislative session, I will maintain all of the same committee responsibilities I had in the last two sessions, with the exception of the Sub-Committee on Elections.
While election law continues to hold great interest for me because of its critical importance to the people of this state, I requested to be assigned to the Transportation and Public Safety Committee, primarily because I feel we must address the needs of roads and bridges in rural Minnesota. The following is a list of my committee assignments for the 2015 session and a brief description of issues for you to look for:
• Judiciary — A budget to fund the court, prison and related agencies will be determined. Also, since Minnesota is under a court order to reform the Minnesota Sex Offender Program (MSOP), this issue is likely to be debated at length in the Judiciary Committee.
• Capital Investment — Since it is a budget year, I am not anticipating much of a bonding bill. However, if a bill does come forward I will bring it to your attention.
• Rules and Administration — In the Rules and Administration Committee, we will work on a variety of procedural issues relating to the legislative process, such as the timing of when and if bills should be brought forward for debate on the Senate floor. Early in the session it is pretty quiet, but as various deadlines and the end of session approach, that changes dramatically.
• Finance — Like the Ways and Means Committee in the House, the Finance Committee in the Senate will review all bills involving any state spending. Because this is a budget year, there are 18 committees that will likely pass an omnibus appropriation bill and all are debated in the Finance Committee before heading to the Senate floor for passage. Consequently, this committee becomes very busy, particularly late in the session.
• Transportation and Public Safety — Public safety is one of the most important functions of government and will be a priority again this session. I also anticipate discussion involving our transportation infrastructure, as many roads and bridges, particularly in rural Minnesota, are in dire need of repair. I will work to ensure that all of Minnesota benefits from future investments.